Tony Biasoti | Ventura County Star

The federal omnibus bill includes $28.9 million for 17 different projects in Ventura County, including air conditioning at E.P. Foster Library in Ventura, stairs at Mondo’s beach and cybersecurity programs at two local colleges.

The $1.7 trillion spending package passed both houses of Congress last week and signed by President Joe Biden Thursday. The bill funds the military and other federal agencies for 2023 and also includes about $15 billion in “community project funding,” earmarks inserted by individual representatives to fund infrastructure and other projects in their districts.

U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, a Democrat who represents most of Ventura County, secured about $20 million in funding for 14 separate projects in the county. U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, a Democrat who represents Ventura and Ojai as well as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, obtained about $9 million in funds for three projects in the Ventura County portion of his district.

The biggest-ticket item on either representative’s list was $7 million toward the years-long project to widen Highway 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara. The funds will pay to add a carpool lane in one of two remaining sections of freeway that still have only two lanes in each direction. When those last two sections are done, Highway 101 will have at least three lanes in each direction for 30 miles.

The biggest allocation to a project entirely located within Ventura County was $4 million to the city of Camarillo, to help rebuild the intersection of Las Posas Road and Ventura Boulevard, just south of Highway 101, where a drainage culvert passes under the intersection.

The current bridge over that culvert was rated as “poor” when it was last inspected by CalTrans in 2020, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s database of the nation’s bridges. The culvert had “significant deterioration,” and the structural evaluation scored at the “minimum tolerable” level. The bridge carries about 32,000 cars per day.

“The bridge is being continually monitored for any sign of further deterioration,” Michelle D’Anna, a spokesperson for the city of Camarillo, said in an email interview. “The city will take appropriate action if the structural integrity of the bridge poses a safety risk to the traveling public.”

Replacing the bridge will cost about $19.5 million, D’Anna said. The city has already allocated $12 million toward the project, and hopes to pay for the remainder with an additional federal grant, funded under the 2021 federal infrastructure bill. The city expects to start construction in late 2024 or early 2025, D’Anna said.

In Ventura, $750,000 from the 2023 omnibus bill will help bring air conditioning to E.P. Foster Library, the city’s main downtown library branch.

Foster Library is the largest and most popular library in the county library system, and the only one without air conditioning, said Nancy Schram, the county’s library director. The library has had to close its doors during a number of recent heat waves, including the one in September.

“Our biggest concern is the safety of our staff and the public,” Schram said. “When you get above 85 or 90 on a regular basis throughout the building, and even hotter in some areas, it’s not safe and it’s against our policies to have people work in those conditions.”

The main library building is more than 60 years old, and installing air conditioning will require a significant renovation, Schram said. The project should cost around $3 million, she said, and will be paid for with a combination of city and county funds, and perhaps a state grant. The building is owned by the city of Ventura and the county operates the library.

Once the building has air conditioning, it can be used as a cooling shelter during heat waves for senior citizens and others who don’t have their own air conditioning.

“This is really exciting,” Schram said of the federal funding. “This is the first real commitment of real funds we’ve had for this project, so it’s likely other funding will follow. … It’s finally happening.”

Also in Carbajal’s district, the bill includes $1 million for the county of Ventura to build a new stairway to access Mondo’s beach north of Ventura. Beachgoers currently have to scramble down a rock embankment.

Other projects in Brownley’s district that will be funded in the bill include $2 million toward a new facility for Food Share, which has also received $3 million in pandemic relief funds from the county of Ventura for that purpose; $1.85 million toward a solar and battery microgrid in Thousand Oaks to keep core city operations going during a wildfire or other power outages; a total of $6.5 million to three separate sewer and water line projects in Santa Paula, Oxnard and Simi Valley; $1 million for a patio shelter at the Simi Valley Senior Center; and $850,000 for cybersecurity programs at two colleges.

CSU Channel Islands will get $550,000 to develop a cybersecurity degree program, and Moorpark College will get $300,000 for a “work-based learning cybersecurity program,” according to a news release from Brownley’s office.

The full list of Ventura County projects funded in the omnibus bill, according to news releases from Brownley and Carbajal:

  • $4 million for the bridge replacement at Las Posas Road and Ventura Boulevard in Camarillo
  • $550,800 to CSUCI for a cybersecurity degree program
  • $2.84 million to the city of Oxnard for water pipeline replacement
  • $2 million to the city of Santa Paula for water and sewer pipeline replacement 
  • $1.68 million to the city of Simi Valley for sewer line replacement
  • $2 million to Food Share for facility construction
  • $1.85 million for microgrid installation for the Municipal Service Center in Thousand Oaks
  • $300,000 for a work-based learning cybersecurity program at Moorpark College
  • $750,000 for the new Moorpark City Library
  • $628,600 for faculty professional development at Oxnard College
  • $375,000 for the Port of Hueneme’s Comprehensive Climate Action and Adaptation Plan
  • $1 million for the city of Simi Valley Senior Center Patio Shelter
  • $640,000 for the Ventura County Family Justice Center Oxnard Satellite
  • $1.5 million to the county of Ventura for the Robles Diversion Improvement Project along the Ventura River
  • $7 million to support construction of one of the two remaining sections of carpool lane expansion on Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura
  • $750,000 to help fund installation of air conditioning at E.P. Foster Library in Ventura
  • $1 million to design and install access stairwells at Mondo’s Cove beach

This story was originally published by the VC Star on December 30, 2022.

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